LENI RIEFENSTAHL by Leni Riefenstahl


A Memoir
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 A sad and stupendously flat reminiscence by the doyenne of the German cinema, who even now seems unwilling to admit that she backed the wrong horse in 1933. It's impossible to consider Riefenstahl's career in normal terms, since politics and history have invaded it from every side. The product of a bourgeois home in Brandenburg, she established herself as a dancer and actress during the heyday of the Berlin scene in the 20's. The German film industry at that time was the most advanced in the world, and Riefenstahl wasn't slow to pick up the creative potential of the medium--producing some of the most remarkable works of the decade. She made pioneering use of location photography and nonprofessional actors, and was one of the few actresses of the time who managed to cross into production and direction. Her early success in The Blue Light brought her to the attention of the Nazis, who'd just come to power and were assembling one of the most effective propaganda machines ever. Although she never joined the Party--and, in fact, came to be despised by Goebbels and other Nazi functionaries because of her independence--Riefenstahl enchanted Hitler, who gave her free rein in her work. The documentaries that she created for the Ministry of Propaganda--Triumph of the Will and Olympia--have haunted her ever since. Magnificently shot and edited, they were so well received abroad that Riefenstahl would never live down her reputation as a propagandist for the Third Reich. After the war, she was imprisoned briefly, and has been something of a pariah in the international film industry ever since. Here, she attempts to rehabilitate herself in the eyes of the world and to assert that her identity as an artist subsumed her political inclinations (which, if she's to be believed, were quite ambivalent toward Nazism). Hard to swallow, even with a grain of salt. (Forty pages of b&w photos--not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-09843-X
Page count: 688pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1993